The pink fog

Do not transition. Self-respect is a human right. Transition is too great a price to pay for self-respect.

Transition is a way to get self-respect, and so is tempting. You have never felt you are a real man. You feel less. You try to make a man of yourself, and always feel inadequate. You have the shameful secret that you cross-dress.

But what if you are trans? Then, Being a Man would be obviously wrong for you. You could express yourself in a way which fits your personality. You would be free. You would have The Answer- you know why you have never fitted in, and what you can do about it. The delight you feel when contemplating transition and the misery you feel at presenting male is confirmation. Having a long and difficult journey to reach freedom, every step you take on it delights you. You are in the pink fog, a wonderful term I got from my friend Joanna Santos, whose whole post is worth reading: Dreaming about the aspects you think you would relish about being a woman can lead you into a deep pink fog which can sometimes confuse things.

You ask yourself if other theories fit. Autogynephilia, perhaps: “Men trapped in men’s bodies”. No. I don’t think Renee Richards entirely cuts it either- “a lifelong committed transvestite”. Some object to the term transvestite, coined by psychologists and formerly used as a diagnosis of a disorder. “Cross-dresser” was coined by the community. Cross-dressing is a harmless way of reducing stress. If it arouses you sexually, that is nothing to be ashamed of: the clothes are lovely, and humans get horny at all sorts of things. Yet that is not all you are. You are not a failed man with a disgusting habit, and the habit does not define you. It is a harmless habit, though. It need not be all your life.

My other theory is that you are a “beta male“. You don’t fit “alpha” models of masculinity, but beta is the upgrade! You have ways of being which are a blessing to a community. You are soft, gentle, peaceful. You are empathetic and conciliatory, and like to fit in- this is a blessing, but has been distorted, to cause you to try to be a Real Man.

If you have been shamed by not being a Real Man, transition is a way to self-acceptance and self-understanding; however if you have been shamed, that is a psychic wound which can distort how you see the world and yourself. You went along with it for a time. You tried to make a man of yourself. You could not, and your shame increased, but you could not because it was not right for you. Find a therapist who can help you appreciate your own beauty. If you find someone who will love you for yourself, rather than for a false image of you, that will help.

I believe there are trans women who will be fulfilled by transition. I would never want to cut off the path to transition. But it is not the best way for everyone who starts it, and you may face discrimination and hostility.

Rather than a real life test, where you must change your name and agree never to present male again, I would recommend a period of exploration, to include extensive psychotherapy. You could present female or male, and you could try to express your feminine side while presenting male. What do you want?

Who are you, really?

berthe-morisot-jeune-fille-au-bal

Parakaleo

The Parakaleo ministry in the UK is a sad transvestite called Keith Tiller, who goes round telling people transvestism is wrong, a trans woman’s wife told me around when I transitioned. Parakaleo is Biblical Greek, meaning counsel, including to comfort, console, encourage, urge, appeal, exhort. In the US, Parakaleo is training for Christian counsellors at Stanford University, using the Bible as the main authority but the “Holy Spirit, not self-effort,” to move the person to speak.

I find the Stanford idea of telling people what is God’s will for them highly dangerous, but it pales beside the British fool’s crusade against trans folk. The crusade is ruthless and hateful: the first article I found on the blog is lifted from “Transgender Trend”, which is concerned about legislation which places transgender rights above the right to safety for girls and young women in public bathrooms and changing rooms. Anyone who alleges we should not use the loo because they claim we are a threat to girls has no sense of proportion, and their attacks are unreliable; and their foolishness led to large job-losses in North Carolina, as businesses deserted the bigot-led state.

Tiller claims his cross-dressing led to the end of two marriages and alienation from his two adult children. He bases his understanding on himself.

The crusade is not particularly powerful. It claims to be A Christian ministry seeking to uphold Biblical values to the transvestite, transsexual and transgendered person. Almost no-one uses that threefold TV TS TG division now, it is a failed attempt to fit a complex phenomenon into neat, simple categories. Keith begins with a lie:  The aim of Parakaleo Ministry is to … introduce people to the message of the Gospel and the healing love of the Lord Jesus Christ. Introduce? No, he mostly works with distressed people who have previously been Evangelical Christians. Message of the Gospel?

-Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?
-Well, whatever you do, never cross-dress.

He quotes Deuteronomy 22:5, and says It is clear from the passage that His intent that male and female are intended to be complimentary (sic). Whereas, consider the world God created, and see that masculinity and femininity overlap and intermingle. He wants things to be nice and simple, and his own desires distress him. Poor silly man.

We believe that males and females are created distinctly by God, intended to be complimentary, and united only in biblically ordered marriage. “We” is one man.

He then claims cross-dressing is addictive. Active participation, whether alone or in company, will result in an increased desire to pursue the activity. Actually, attempts to suppress it makes the person more obsessive, like Keith.

Finances remain tight – to the point of despair, which affects most of the areas of my life. Thank God. The despairing man will not turn many from Christ, despite enthusiastic support by wicked “pastors” like the one who referred my friend, and also threatened to reveal to the congregation the secret she had told him in confidence. His despair might indicate to someone less stupid and closed-minded than he that he is wrong about his gender, and wrong about God.

Keith is a silly man who has a silly website, on which he shares the most prejudiced and doctrinaire anti-trans articles he can find. Even when he was meeting people, he had little success: my friend thought it was God’s will she should not transition, until she met Keith and saw how ridiculous he was. She transitioned shortly after.

Keith’s worthless fantasies.

Transvestism in Walter Scott

If you were a Jacobite, returned to Scotland in secret in 1765; and you had kidnapped your son, who had been brought up by his English mother as a decadent, liberal, English type rather than a hard Scots warrior, a man of Duty and Destiny;

and you sought to transport your son, who might seek to escape, as you crossed the country on horseback, how would you choose to restrain him?

By dressing him as a woman, of course!

Cristal Nixon will act as your valet- I should, perhaps, say your femme de chambre. Your travelling dress you may consider as singular; but it is such as the circumstances require.

The soldier offers no better explanation, and the son does not challenge this. Later, the clothes arrive- a skirt, or upper-petticoat of camlet, like those worn by country ladies of moderate rank when on horseback, with a riding mask. Darsie wonders whether he should co-operate- but if he will not, he will be prisoner in a carriage rather than on horseback, and considered the comparative degree of ease and freedom which I might purchase by wearing the mask and female dress, as easily and advantageously purchased. That is, he has no great objection.

So far Scott has given us Darsie’s journal, but now turns to the third person narrator. Although he did not assume such a disguise without some sensations of shame and degradation, Darsie permitted Cristal Nixon to place over his face one of those silk masks which ladies frequently wore to preserve their complexion. He remonstrated somewhat more vehemently against the long riding-skirt, which converted his person from the waist into the female guise, but was obliged to concede this point also. Scott explains that then women riders wore men’s jackets, ladies’ riding habits not having been conceived, but men’s clothes then had splendid colours, lace and gay embroidery.

Perhaps Scott could not trust himself to explain Darsie’s feelings in the first person. There are other instances of cross-dressing in Scott: in The Monastery, a brother and sister regularly impersonate each other. Cross-dressing men are often attracted to women, and Scott was married- I can’t find a suggestion he was gay- but when I googled the scene I found an essay suggesting Darsie’s relationship with his friend Alan could be read as gay, even if a straight reading considering their love fraternal was also possible. I read all of Scott from Nationalist motives, but Christopher Whyte says the theorist must demolish the Nationalist’s canon. I read him for self-improvement, Whyte reads for pleasure.

When he liberates Darsie from the skirt, Redgauntlet says Do not blush at having worn a disguise to which kings and heroes have been reduced– but readers would recall that the Young Pretender dressed as Flora MacDonald’s maid.

Transvestism in Jane Eyre

On hearing that Mr Rochester wore women’s clothes (!) I had to investigate.

In chapters 18 and 19 of Jane Eyre, he goes from his house on business, and returns in a red cloak and a black bonnet, or rather a broad brimmed gypsy hat, tied with a handkerchief under her chin. He/she proceeds to tell the fortunes of the unmarried women in his house, unsurprisingly telling such things! She knows all about us!

Finally he speaks to Jane, who stands up to the gypsy, and in hinting his love for her he think[s] I rave in a kind of exquisite delirium, and reveals himself. She rebukes him: now, sir, what a strange idea!

Possibly he could not have played the trick dressed as a man, as he would have been recognised. A man would have to take off his hat, entering the house, a woman might keep on a bonnet. He is mean to his fiancée, who wants to put the gypsy in the stocks. Jane thinks there is a trick, but imagines it is Mrs Poole the servant- the thought that a man might dress as a woman is beyond her. It’s the sensible thing to do, if he wants to play this dishonourable trick, and yet the taboo of the clothes makes it worse.

I had read the book, and remembered almost nothing of it, only an incident at school where Jane is humiliated. Now, I love the quiet dignity of the governess, and may read it again.

I heard of the scene in In Our Time: Melvyn Bragg expresses shock that Mr Rochester wears women clothes, then has to correct himself, -wears them on only one occasion.

Googling, the incident was difficult to find. Wikipedia and The Jane Eyre Wikia do not mention it, nor do Cliff’s Notes. It is in The Millions, a list on how Mr Rochester is a creep. No. 1 is that he locks his wife up, but the cross-dressing is no. 4. Why Jane doesn’t throw up in her mouth a little when she discovers his little game is beyond me. The writer adds I wouldn’t be surprised if Rochester likes to wear Jane’s underwear, too. Or, let’s be honest: Bertha’s.

I found that from The Squeee, Why Mr Rochester is not a creep. Dressing in drag does not make you a creep, she says, trenchantly, and I am relieved. She is a huge Jane Eyre fan: her tag line is REVIEWS ♦ RAMBLINGS ♦ ROCHESTER ♦ OCCASIONAL RICHARDING. Richarding is squeeeing about Richard Armitage.

Should one incident matter? It depends whom you ask. This pdf makes the description a feminist statement: “No longer believable as an interior ‘truth’ of dispositions and identity, sex will be shown to be a performatively enacted signification (and hence not ‘to be’), one that, released from its naturalized interiority and surface, can occasion the parodic proliferation and subversive play of gendered meanings.” A woman writer dressing a male character as a woman demolishes patriarchy.

The Millions. It is a site about books.
The Squeee.

Illustration from the second edition of Jane Eyre

Developing gender dysphoria

If transvestic fetishism develops into autogynephilia then gender dysphoria, that would only be a bad thing if being a trans woman is a bad thing. Why on Earth would one ever imagine that? It is good for me. It enables me to be, to express myself, to interact with others, more authentically as me- whether that “me” is “male” or “female”, masculine or feminine, whatever.

That the process was intensely painful does not mean that it was a bad thing. The pain came from guilt and shame, and from unknowing and feeling not in control. Not trusting. But first I like feminine clothes, then I imagine a feminine lifestyle, then I realise my feminine self. All people undergo this growth into being the mature self, a process of being and becoming, like egg, caterpillar, pupa, butterfly. All the stages are necessary, and each stage is the real me.

I recall the pain, and it has echoes now, for I am still in pain. My pain is at the strength of the cultural forces pushing me into the false path of conventional masculinity, which still enrage me, which necessitate the strength of my NO!, my refusal, leaving so little strength left for my yes, my desire.

It involved masturbation, then feeling guilty. Why should sexual release be “bad”? It is a natural physical function. I felt guilt about it, because of the guilt about cross-dressing- which was rejecting the role mapped out for me, the conventional concept of manhood which did not fit me. It seemed to me that society pushed me into the wrong shaped hole, and I felt guilt at resisting. Though I thought Oldham CAB would find a reason to dismiss me, and they supported me: society was more liberal than I had thought.

Was the desire reinforced or fomented by the masturbation? I don’t think it could be instigated by masturbation, and I think presenting female would create gender dysphoria, the intense discomfort of the male in the female role, if it was merely a sexual fantasy. But yeah, theorists disagree, and say of me, s/he would say that, wouldn’t s/he? Sod ’em.

The process involves removal of male physical sex characteristics, and as far as possible creation of female ones. My facial hair was removed, and some have FFS. Does this mean I assert that my femininity means that I am a woman, or that women ought to be “feminine”? No, just that from whatever cause which I do not know, that is what I wanted. Possibly the cause is the Patriarchy, which almost tolerates me if I pretend to be a woman. I don’t know what the world without patriarchy would be like- yet I subvert Patriarchy, by rejecting male privilege.

Oh, come on Roughseas, I know you read this! So many pageviews from Gibraltar, the simplest explanation is they’re you. This tense paradox of freedom and unfreedom, in that being free- authentic- means having no choice- here I am, I can be no other. Say you forgive me! Another paradox: I am myself, and I am in the world.

I have been back with Prof Eric Steinhart, and today learn his pages are designed to be read with die Phänomenologie des Geistes, which I may yet read, though I might prefer an internet summary to an undergraduate module. And a line from Jonathan Franzen The Corrections, that Alfred blamed Enid for his confusion, for witnessing it into existence. I wrestle with this, as I have for the last four years, and take what I may from the thought of others, to push my own forward.

life is like a roller coaster

I am still screaming; but enjoying slightly more.

Transvestic fetishism, autogynephilia, and late onset gender dysphoria

What makes transvestic fetishism a “disorder”? Distress, or harm to others. The paraphilia subworkgroup producing DSM V explain: A paraphilia by itself would not automatically justify or require psychiatric intervention. A paraphilic disorder is a paraphilia that causes distress or impairment to the individual or harm to others…This approach leaves intact the distinction between normative and non-normative sexual behavior, which could be important to researchers, but without automatically labeling non-normative sexual behavior as psychopathological.

According to the DSM, in late onset gender dysphoria the progression is: transvestic fetishism, that is, the subject is aroused by cross-dressing; autogynephilia, arousal by fantasies of self as a woman; gender dysphoria, the desire to live continually as a woman and physically alter the body.

DSM V on transvestic disorder: The presence of autogynephilia increases the likelihood of gender dysphoria in men with transvestic disorder…Some cases of transvestic disorder progress to gender dysphoria. The males in these cases, who may be indistinguishable from others with transvestic disorder in adolescence or early childhood, gradually develop desires to remain in the female role for longer periods and to feminize their anatomy. The development of gender dysphoria is usually accompanied by a (self-reported) reduction or elimination of sexual arousal in association with cross-dressing.

DSM V on gender dysphoria: Adolescents and adults with late-onset gender dysphoria frequently engage in transvestic behavior with sexual excitement. The majority of these individuals are gynephilic or sexually attracted to other posttransition natal males with late-onset gender dysphoria. A substantial percentage of adult males with late-onset gender dysphoria cohabit with or are married to natal females. After gender transition, many self-identify as lesbian…Additional predisposing factors under consideration, [that is, theories without empirical justification] especially in individuals with late-onset gender dysphoria (adolescence, adulthood), include habitual fetishistic transvestism developing into autogynephilia (i.e., sexual arousal associated with the thought or image of oneself as a woman) and other forms of more general social, psychological, or developmental problems.

This is not on line, and I got the quotes from a comment from a trans-exclusionist, here. The DSM V definition of a mental disorder, section on gender dysphoria, introductory section on paraphilic disorders and differential diagnosis on transvestic disorder/GD, are at pp 3-17 of this pdf.

It is a pity Ray Blanchard was involved in this part of DSM V. He claims transvestism develops into autogynephilia, then gender dysphoria, though not in all cases: there are cross-dressers who are quite happy with their gender and their hobby.

He overlooks distress and denial as a causal factor. Gender dysphoria plus denial manifests first as transvestism, then fantasising about being women, and finally gender dysphoria. We try to make men of ourselves. We cannot admit to ourselves that we are not men. But we cannot deny it completely, so first we compulsively cross-dress, with that extreme distress, repeatedly getting rid of the clothes; then we admit the desire to express female; and finally we cannot resist that desire any more, resisting is just too painful. I retain that distress. I want to be normal, and cannot be.

Which of these subjects may be observed? Only the ones who have developed gender dysphoria, generally: which of the fetishistic transvestites would you examine, as most of them will not develop GD. So my own evidence is of disproportionate value here. I self-identified as fetishistic transvestite, in 1992, when I sought aversion therapy. My psychiatrist Dr Yellowlees thought I showed transsexual tendencies, though I would have denied it, my distress (and so “disorder”) being so great. I am the example of the person who might give a history of developing autogynephilia after gender dysphoria was established.

Now read on: if fetishism develops into gender dysphoria, that is beautiful.

George Elgar Hicks, seated woman in white dress

Feminine men

Renoir- femme assise au bord de la merRenoir, jeune femme assiseAfter writing my own post, I googled “Feminine men”, and found this post on Thought Catalog. The comments from women are encouraging in that they all agree, but discouraging in that they say things like People often think I’m really weird when I tell them all this and I know no one who is like me too.

Then I found Love Red Nails, first “Women marrying feminine men“. The writer talks of wanting her partner in a dress for the wedding. They often share clothes. Out came my internalised femme-phobia: it is alright for a man to be feminine, but cross-dressing is going too far, I thought. I resented her mentioning this, thinking it made a lovely idea tawdry and fetishistic, even though I express myself female all the time. Trans women are encouraged to distance ourselves from transvestites- it sometimes seems we are more acceptable if we have a “medical condition”.

It is about sex. Of course it is. How could finding a partner not be? But it is also about relating to the world as a whole, in all of life. That I should still think of dressing feminine as a dirty little fantasy shows how pervasive femme-phobia is. I read what the male commenters have to say on both these posts, and feel they shouldn’t be saying these things, they should keep quiet about it, even as I begin to say the same myself. All my fear comes out. I clicked Submissive men and read Sensitive or submissive men are very different from normal (sic) guys in their behavior. What’s normal? People are like this! What is the feeling about camp v “straight acting” gay men atm?

Then Lucy writes about women who like feminine men, whether  they are cross-dressers or are “on the passive side and not afraid to be vulnerable”. Um. Passive. Vulnerable. Not well regarded, and not comfortable even for me. That physically delicate and vulnerable type of man gives me a sort of protective instinct. I just want to hold him tight and keep him safe from the big bad world. I never decided to be that way, it’s just what comes up in response to what I see around me. That is what I want in a woman, though it makes me ashamed. I still feel I should be stronger than that.

I don’t read much contemporary fiction, but am unaware of a novel in which a couple where the woman “wears the trousers” (not an attractive phrase; better than “pussy-whipped”) have a happy lasting relationship. Or on the telly- Stuart on LA Law, perhaps.

The Wall St Journal, no less, says “Women don’t want macho men” when their countries have good health-care systems, because the masculine man is more likely to get divorced, and less good with children. In passing, the female writer suggests the feminine men are more likely to get cuckolded- which is part of the femdom fantasy.

Also, there was Youtube, a series of pictures of men in “women’s” clothes, some of them growing or mimicking breasts, some not.

I want to say, How fantastic! Liberation! But I am still ashamed and frightened, and want to keep quiet about it. Is that “feminine”?

Past issues

Colin, a transvestite who may still go by the “femme name” Fiona, was very good to me. He had a boat on the Norfolk Broads, and I spent many happy long weekends on it, driving up and down the rivers, visiting Norwich and the pretty little towns, country churches, pubs and restaurants, in an alcoholic haze. He came to stay with me in Oldham, and we went out together to the Village (the gay area of Manchester) and the Northern Concord weekends, taking lots of tranny photos of each other. Several on my page Snap Snap Grin Grin were taken by Colin.

He did not think I was sensible to transition. He told me of a friend of his, an accountant, who had transitioned and gone to college to learn to be a hairdresser, but reverted after nine months. He portrayed this as a ridiculous mid-life crisis, and the reversion a return to common sense. I felt at the time that if someone was uncomfortable in the presence of a tranny, they would find a TS accountant less disturbing than a TS hairdresser- imagine, one of them touching your hair! Now, I sympathise with the woman, I might have wanted a complete break from accountancy too.

Colin had other friends who tolerated his habit of dressing up in “little girl” costumes, which he had hand-made. Once we drove to the south of England to a company which made disgusting false breasts aimed at the TV market, including a model with a reservoir so that liquid could ooze out of the nipples. I loathed “dominating” him, as he was in control: I got him to kneel in the porch once, in winter, to cure him of it, and sat reading, but felt miserable doing that, and called him in.

Our friendship ended after I transitioned. He promised to take me to the theatre dressed male, but when he arrived he insisted on wearing drag. I drove him there, and strode off in my sensible flats while he tottered after in his far-too-pale foundation, laid on with a trowel, and a mutton dressed as fetus minidress, but just before we left his daughter had phoned and I had snapped at her, and that was the breach of our friendship.

Oh, I am angry and hurt. Now. I hardly know how much I am angry with him, and how much with the situation. His wife tolerated his cross-dressing as long as he did not do it too much, but sometimes she felt threatened by it: his freedom to cross-dress varied.

I hate the queerness of it, the restrictedness of it. I felt I could dress female in the Village when I was terrified dressing in the shopping centre and the supermarket. With some reason: I went with colleagues to a night club in Oldham once, and a bloke tried to snatch my wig. I loathe the transvestite scene, with its jargon- GG for the few wives and girlfriends who turned up stands for “Genuine girl”- and, I am genuine. Yes, yes, tolerance in all things, and if I find them disgusting how may I respond to someone who is revolted by me, and- Oh, the fear, and the unnaturalness, and the fetishism!

I dressed there when I was too frightened to dress anywhere else. And, dressing there, I had an acute sense of my own unnaturalness and wrongness which I have not entirely shaken off. Miserable thinking of it, I lash out here at the mostly inoffensive Colin- my first draft had his surname and the name of the town he lived in, and I thought of putting in a photograph of him, which would be unkind.

I have a right to exist. I have a right to be me, and not to pretend, and it is still hard to accept that.